We held our Diocesan Synod over the last days of the past week - my first as President of the Synod. It was a full Synod - we finished a few minutes before the designated finishing time of 5 pm on Saturday. It was a helpful Synod - to me at least - because it helped chart some directions over the next twelve months in respect of strategy and planning for action towards my stated big theme for the Diocese: Regeneration through Christ.
In due course and through our official Diocesan media we will report on the Synod. Here I want to reflect generally on an aspect of church life, perhaps more peculiar to Anglican churches than other churches in Aotearoa New Zealand, which various discussions in the Synod touched on. This is the question of funding mission (say, new outreaches into society) and church development (say, building a larger church for a growing congregation to gather in) when the funds do not appear to be available, yet the overall assets of the church (in this case, a Diocese or region) are considerable.
Other ways of putting this include:
- We are asset rich and cash poor.
- We have churches in the wrong places in respect of how housing has developed in the past 50 years; what if we sold all our churches and started again?
- Why own church buildings at all when they consume so many dollars maintaining and repairing them and take up so much administrative time and energy?
But putting things like that raises the inevitable questions of what can and cannot be done.
- can a Diocese make a plan, sell buildings over here and build new buildings over there? (Answer, in Anglican polity: mostly a resounding, No!)
- what difference does the heritage status of a building make to what might happen to it? (With related question of cemeteries on church land ...)
- would we settle for always using rented properties rather than properties we own?
On the one hand, it is pretty simple to put up so many questions and raise various issues so that we do nothing to change the status quo.
On the other hand, there is a will to find a way forward and an urgency pressing upon us to change the status quo.
As we sometimes observe to ourselves hereabouts, there is no point in being the last Anglican in the Diocese of Christchurch wondering what to do with several hundred million dollars of real estate.
Our Synod raised questions. This time we didn't settle on answers. A year from now we will come back to these matters. We will have done more work by then. My blog a year from now may or may not have some definitive decisions to report!
On the other hand